$1.5m lawsuit against coast pineapple farm after 4m fall

AN EX-YEPPOON farmhand is suing for almost $1.5 million after he was allegedly ejected from a pineapple bin and fell four metres to a concrete floor, sustaining serious injuries.

James Skuthorp, now 50, is suing the owners of Lake Mary Pines at Bungundarra for damages for personal injuries.

Documents were filed in Rockhampton Supreme Court by Justin Houlihan of Rees R and Sydney Jones detailing the incident.

Mr Skuthorp was employed as a farmhand between February 2016 and June 7, 2016.

The incident in question allegedly occurred on June 7, 2016, when Mr Skuthorp was undertaking roof repairs to a shed with one of the business owners.

It is claimed Mr Skuthorp was fixing purlins (sheeting rails) while standing inside a timber pineapple bin, which was being raised and lowered by a forklift, operated by the business owner.

It is claimed a purlin became caught with another and as Mr Skuthorp attempted to separate them, they fell and as he tried to catch them, the bin tipped over and he was ejected, falling about four metres to the concrete floor of the shed.

Mr Skuthorp sustained a compound fracture to his left elbow and right radius, fracture of his left femur and facial skeleton disruption of frontal bone and dental injuries.

It is claimed Mr Skuthorp required prolonged hospital treatment, surgeries and manual therapies and continues to suffer from pain and discomfort in his left elbow, right wrist and left leg.

His elbow is allegedly “constantly painful and swollen” and he has a limited range of movement.

Mr Skuthorp also says he suffers intermittent pain and swelling in his right wrist and his right hand grip has been reduced.

His leg is allegedly intermittently painful and is provoked by sustained walked and he has difficulty with squatting and kneeling.

The court claim alleges the employers and business owners failed to provide a safe place of work and safe and adequate plant and equipment.

At the time of the accident, Mr Skuthorp claimed he was earning $935 per week and it is noted his last day of ­employment with the pineapple farm was on the day of the accident.

He is claiming $238,288.92 for past economic loss plus superannuation.

For future economic loss, Mr Skuthorp is claiming $815,000. It is alleged his injuries have prohibited him from any moderately heavy work, work involving vibratory tools or machinery and work requiring sustained standing or walking, crouching or kneeling.

It is claimed WorkCover Queensland spent $196,685.60 on Mr Skuthorp’s treatment, rehabilitation and travel which he would be obliged to refund.

Mr Skuthorp further claims he will require future surgery on his right wrist and along with future costs of medications and medical appointments, he will be out of pocket $47,920.

The total amount for the claim is about $1,495,789.97.

In February 2018, the Lake Mary Pines co-owner pleaded guilty in the guilty in Rockhampton Magistrates Court for failing to comply with a health and safety duty for the incident involving Mr Skuthorp.

The court heard the co-owner had been running the farm since 1980, there had been no workplace issues before this accident and he went to great lengths to support his injured worker afterwards.

The court heard the co-owner not only topped up Mr Skuthorp’s workplace payments – which is 75 per cent of his full-time pay – but also paid for Mr Skuthorp’s wife to travel to Brisbane while her husband received medical treatment, got the couple a car so they could travel to appointments and paid the ­registration on the car.

A $20,000 fine was ordered and a $15,000 good behaviour bond, plus $750 for professional costs and $96.15 for the summons. No conviction was recorded.

The defendant filed a notice to defend the civil proceedings last month and an offer to settle was filed.